Let’s be careful not to make a disaster into a crisis. Denman’s demolishing act and McCoy’s unseating was so shattering at the time that the rest of his round was forgotten. For they were getting on like a house on fire.
Well, that’s not quite the right metaphor, although it was the one Harry Findlay used in the paddock beforehand. Until the 15th fence debacle McCoy and Denman had been as tidy as A house readied for the first visit from the inlaws. And they had seemed welcome from the opening of the front door.
As they came across to face the tapes there was no sign of the reluctant mulishness Denman had showed on Hennessy day. McCoy took him ears pricked towards the inside right in front of us. The jockey intent behind the dark goggles, the horse lean enough inside that mighty frame and jumping off willingly if a trifle lethargic into and over the first.
A seat in the vet’s car kept us close to the action and straightaway it was clear that the distinctive elbow pumping take off that McCoy imposes on his partners was no hindrance to the big chestnut beneath him. Indeed the mind was making the note that this pair were made for each other. The horse’s great neck and head looking out towards the fences, the iconic champion dictating things from above.
But it is not hindsight to record that as they swung out down the backstretch we in the car had a bit of worry between us – not for the jockey but the horse. They were rolling along well enough but from close behind there were a couple of times when you noticed the strain of heaving that mighty carcass up and over. Swinging towards the cross fence we could see those McCoy wrists tightening on the rein. He was beginning to stretch them but was he stretching them enough. Surely Niche Market should not be that close.
McCoy has a way of tilting that hair pin body forwards when he want a horse to go up a gear. He did it now right in front of us. He said afterwards that he expected Denman to come on and “attack” the next fence. He had every right to expect him cooperate yet the Denman take off never came.
From close behind it was a dramatic sight – an explosive parting of the birch and McCoy hanging way out on the port gunwale. Before the next he seemed already beaten ,the nextXXX “jump” was even worse and there was the record breaking champion hurting on the turf.
In the five weeks to Cheltenham Paul Nicholls and his team will be running every sort of check over Denman. The one thing they won’t do is blame the jockey. That is for Dumbos.